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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MESMERIZING AND MEANINGFUL - AUDIO REVIEW
If you have not read Christopher Isherwood you have missed the work of a brilliant author. This particular book was praised by the NY Times as "...a sad, sly report on the predicament of the human animal." Isherwood's prose is spare, mesmerizing; his words well chosen, succinct, meaningful. Most importantly, his writings are true.

When first published about a...
Published on 29 Dec 2009 by Gail Cooke

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well...
Poor George... intellectually privileged, a homosexual in times of changes. The book isn't exactly gripping, but nevertheless, quite interesting. Sharp words and dialogues with depth, show an unhappy man looking to relive the best parts of his live.
Published 22 months ago by Stefan Medeiros


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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MESMERIZING AND MEANINGFUL - AUDIO REVIEW, 29 Dec 2009
By 
Gail Cooke (TX, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A Single Man (Audio CD)
If you have not read Christopher Isherwood you have missed the work of a brilliant author. This particular book was praised by the NY Times as "...a sad, sly report on the predicament of the human animal." Isherwood's prose is spare, mesmerizing; his words well chosen, succinct, meaningful. Most importantly, his writings are true.

When first published about a half century ago A SINGLE MAN was considered shocking as it portrayed for the first time the life of a gay man, George, who was recently bereaved and trying to adjust to life without his partner. George is a college professor, careful, thoughtful. The all too brief story covers just 24 hours from the moment he awakens in the morning and remembers that he has lost his partner to his studied, sometimes painful navigation of the day.

We are privy not only to his actions but to his thoughts, thus we share his predicament, a very human one. George is an Englishman living in southern California, a place a bit inhospitable to a middle-aged scholar yet he perseveres by observing routine. Haven't many of us found ourselves left with that as our one means of coping? For this reader/listener that is the beauty of Isherwood as A SINGLE MAN is not solely a drama of gay life but of all humanity.

Reader Simon Prebble gives voice to George with understanding, and skillful narration. British born his voice is perfectly suited for this role.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the hugely successful movie version of A SINGLE MAN by Tom Ford - don't miss this. And hearty recommendations also for Isherwood's Christopher and His Kind and Prater Violet also found on audio from HighBridge.

- Gail Cooke
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning! undervalued masterpiece from an undervalued author, 7 Nov 2001
This review is from: A Single Man (Paperback)
Isherwood's writing had as many ups and downs as a rollercoaster, which he would have been the first to admit, but this is (I think) the rose amongst the thorns that were his 'middle' books - a sensitive, heart warming and tender depiction of the life of a middle aged, gay male in mid-century America. This was the first of his books I read, and lead me to read all the others.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a perfect novel, really, 25 Jun 2013
By 
schumann_bg - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
A Single Man gives as much pleasure as you can get from a novel, I think, as the central figure is engaging - but not too 'nice' to be convincing - and the writing is unfailingly communicative as can only suggest quite a lot of common ground between George and Isherwood himself, even if we know Isherwood didn't lose his lover. The happy gay relationship - again not over-idealised - is here a thing of the past after a fatal accident, and the question the book poses is, how does one find meaning in life in middle-age in these circumstances? The book takes the form of different episodes in his day which have a much more mixed flavour than the Tom Ford film - and there are more of them. He visits a woman dying in hospital, for instance, and goes to a gay-friendly gym. He is also a good ten years older than Colin Firth who played him in the film - Firth was excellent, but the character is again brought closer to an ideal, as is his friend Charlotte. You might say the film is a kind of fantasy where the book is rooted very much in real life, even if the events follow a similar outline, with the marvellous swim in the night sea, drunk, with his student Kenny, followed by a rather less glossed continuation at his house. Another major difference is that there is no mention of suicide in the book - a facet of the film that weakened it somewhat, perhaps tapping into the mood of The Hours ... Where the novel really comes into its own is in the sense of being buoyed up by Isherwood's amazing narrative voice. The opening and close of the book are among the best I have ever read - the latter has a perfectly pitched ambiguity that I couldn't give away, but it taps into the same feeling as the opening and brings full circle a narrative thread that carries infinite humanity on the long fragile line that is any work of prose, even one as great as this, and as succinct at just over 150 pages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dated but relevant, 26 Jun 2014
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I loved this book. The touches of humour throughout, despite the sad premise, were deft and effective. Having seen the film first, I was surprised to see how much more personality George has in the book - in the film, we really only see him through the window of his own grief for the death of his partner, Jim, but the book offers us a much deeper insight into who George really is. He's catty, witty, bitter and cynical, and his mourning is only a very small part of his psyche.

For much of the book, we see him go about his day much as any other lonely citizen would. He drives to work and ruminates about killing all the people he despises. He watches two men playing tennis and fantasises about them later. He goes to the gym, visits friends and talks to his students. However, all of this is done beneath the veil of a deep, heart-wrenching loss, and the subtlety with which this sense of loss ebbs and flows throughout the narrative is incredibly poignant. He isn't always thinking about Jim, but he's never not thinking about him. Jim is always there, but he's not often entirely so. He ghosts through George's consciousness when George can bear to bring him to mind, but even when he can't, we still feel his presence in the empty house they once shared.

Other elements of the book that impressed me were the dimensions of the supporting characters. For example, the character of Charley in the film is shallow, vain and narcissistic, and clings desperately to the hope that George will one day come to his senses and fall in love with her. The Charley of the book is much more sympathetic - yes, she's still vain and slightly clueless, but underneath it all is a genuine platonic love for George, and a very real understanding of his relationship with Jim. Not once does she seem, as she does in the film, to believe that George settled for Jim for want of a woman to love. It's an important attribute to her character, making her friendship with George more real and understanding, and having rewatched the film since reading the book, it's disappointing that she was turned into a less sympathetic person for reasons of dramatic tension.

There are, of course, some parts of the book that haven't aged quite as well as others. Grief, loneliness and mortality may be timeless, but racial attitudes certainly aren't. Isherwood (and, by extension, George) may have been rather liberal and forward-thinking for their time, but reading parts of this book in public made me check who was behind me on the bus, feeling a little embarrassed - George quite often extols the virtues of 'Negroes' as being exotic and exciting, and talks about how pleased he is that America is becoming multicultural (he seems to find Asian people beautiful to the point of fetishisation) - but it's clear that he sees this idea of a mixed society as something bohemian and rebellious, and not quite as being necessary or equal. For the time in which the book was published, this was probably a very controversial viewpoint, and it still is - just not quite for the same reasons.

It's a beautiful book. It really is. The themes of isolation and loss are dealt with incredibly sensitively, with simple but poetic language and a cast of very realistic characters. The dialogue is so authentic that I couldn't quite believe it to be anything other than a transcript of real speech. The plot is thin, but the narrative is rich with meaning and ruminations. I can't recommend it highly enough - just be aware that, despite the subject matter being rather controversial for its contemporaries, some parts of it are very 'of its time'.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Christopher Isherwood - A Single Man, 9 Mar 2010
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
meditative, moving, thoughtful, poignant. A short, powerful novel; a gentle rumination on death and life, alienation and the small pleasures you can get from simply living, even when tragedy strikes. I wasn't expecting something quite like this, after The Berlin Novels, as this is very different in tone, much more elegaic. If anything, as good as Goodbye to Berlin is, this is even more accomplishedly written, and is certainly more beautiful, in a restrained, reserved way. Highly recommended. (I haven't seen the film, I'm not a film fan, but after reading this I just might.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars All credit for Isherwood., 20 Sep 2014
By 
MG (Wiltshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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Beautifully written: poetic/dryly comic/ moving /neatly observed economic prose. Isherwood tells the story of a day in the life of a gay Englishman living in Santa Monica, lecturing at Californian university. An outsider by birth, culture and sexual orientation he is grieving the loss of his long time partner killed in a car accident. The narrative effectively distances and objectifies the central character at the beginning as he wakes and forces himself to consciousness, then grows in fluidity as he consciously pulls on his outer persona on the drive to work, and begins the teaching of a literature class. The constraints, desires and thoughts are conveyed effectively through his interactions with neighbours, students and ex-pat friend as we journey with him into the evening.

In the documentary'Chris & Don: A Love Story', filmed in the house Isherwood shared with his younger lover for over 30 years, amid his numerous paintings and drawings of Isherwood, Bachardy reveals that this story was written during one of their 'difficult' years when Bachardy in an extra-marital relationship thought about leaving, and Isherwood tried to imagine what life would be like without him. The pain that comes from that contemplation is transmuted to this impressive novel that celebrates the beauty of life as well as mourning loss. As a further connective pleasure, the subsequent film by Tom Ford featuring an elegantly clad Colin Firth beautifully captures the tone, mood and spirit of Isherwood's original.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential, 7 Aug 2008
By 
Erastes (Norfolk, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Single Man (Paperback)
When I told a friend about this book, I said "it's very well written" and she said "Well, der! Isherwood!" and I laughed. But then I've only read Goodbye to Berlin and I was very young then, and didn't know good from bad.

It's possibly one of the most perfect little books I've read, absorbing from the first page and written in such a way that it feels like first person but it's actually written in third, astoundingly clever to my eyes. You get as easily into George's head as if it were first person.

Set over 24 hours, it simply covers his thought processes as he moves through the day and you learn a lot about him and the world in which he lives. From the first section he touches your heart as - as anyone who has suffered bereavement will understand - he wakes up and remembers again that his lover is dead. But he's not pessimistic about his outlook - he doesn't like the way that conservatism is encroaching upon the once bohemian area where he lives - once where there was artists and poets and easy sexual values, families are moving in, with more straight-laced ideals, but in juxtaposition to this, he loves youth.

He teaches at the University and the scenes with the Gidget-era youth are rather sweet and truly give a window into a lost American world. He does watch the athletes for his own enjoyment which was a nice touch.

I loved his optimism, despite how much he missed Jim, and the way that he finds the light and the dark in his life. He interacts with many people throughout the day, he's not at all an isolated person, but I was left feeling that he was spinning on the spot, lonely despite all the people who know and care from him. Without the one intimate friend he needed.

And really - that's about it apart from(spoilers below) He's a truly likeable guy, and towards the end of the book he's feeling optimistic about life. He had a lovely drunken evening first with a neighbour and then with a student friend, skinny dipping and a lot of drink. It's difficult to tell whether anything happened, but I don't think it did. He goes to bed at the end of his 24 hours feeling that it was time that he moved on with his life and that he was ready to look for love again. What would have been far more realistic and upbeat would have been if Isherwood had left it there. It would have been lovely to think that's what George does next. But - whether for literary merit - or for the tradition that - in books of this period - all gay guys MUST die at the end - he doesn't. And it was the ending that spoiled it for me and made me want to throw the book across the room, and made it lose a five star ranking.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Singularily Marvellous Work, 19 Feb 2010
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
`A Single Man' is the tale of a day in the life of George. A British man teaching English and living in California who's life has changed through the complex emotions grief bestows upon someone since loosing his partner Jim. Though you are never quite told when the book is meant to be set I got a feel of the late 1950's, the book was written in the early 1960's a time when homosexuality really wasn't still accepted though there was a slight change in the air. We follow George through his day and in doing so learn how a man copes with the loss of a loved one, for he is technically a widower, when he cannot discuss it.

For such a short book it is brimming with ideas, emotions, and people. It's utterly remarkable. Through George's ordinary day as he gets up, gets ready, drives to work, works, visits a hospital, has a dinner with a friend and gets very drunk Isherwood crams different emotions behind all his actions. Sometimes bitter, inept, nostalgic, angry, sad, aroused, giddy - basically the whole gambit that grief with put you through and so far in my ready experience I have never read it better and though its not written in first person you can feel it all. We also get his back story, Jim's too and then we have the wonderful character of Charlotte a fairly close neighbour.

I could go on and on about this book but really what I should simply do is urge you to read it. It's a small book filled with subtlety and a such a deep and clever internal dialogue which says so much you feel you want to read it again and see what you missed.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliant but flawed, 28 July 2008
By 
Erastes (Norfolk, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Single Man (Paperback)
When I told a friend about this book, I said "it's very well written" and she said "Well, der! Isherwood!" and I laughed. But then I've only read Goodbye to Berlin and I was very young then, and didn't know good from bad.

It's possibly one of the most perfect little books I've read, absorbing from the first page and written in such a way that it feels like first person but it's actually written in third, astoundingly clever to my eyes. You get as easily into George's head as if it were first person.

Set over 24 hours, it simply covers his thought processes as he moves through the day and you learn a lot about him and the world in which he lives. From the first section he touches your heart as - as anyone who has suffered bereavement will understand - he wakes up and remembers again that his lover is dead. But he's not pessimistic about his outlook - he doesn't like the way that conservatism is encroaching upon the once bohemian area where he lives - once where there was artists and poets and easy sexual values, families are moving in, with more straight-laced ideals, but in juxtoposition to this, he loves youth.

He teaches at the University and the scenes with the Gidget-era youth are rather sweet and truly give a window into a lost American world. He does watch the athletes for his own enjoyment which was a nice touch.

I loved his optimism, despite how much he missed Jim, and the way that he finds the light and the dark in his life. He interacts with many people throughout the day, he's not at all an isolated person, but I was left feeling that he was spinning on the spot, lonely despite all the people who know and care from him. Without the one intimate friend he needed.

And really - that's about it apart from(spoilers below) He's a truly likeable guy, and towards the end of the book he's feeling optimistic about life. He had a lovely drunken evening first with a neighbour and then with a student friend, skinny dipping and a lot of drink. It's difficult to tell whether anything happened, but I don't think it did. He goes to bed at the end of his 24 hours feeling that it was time that he moved on with his life and that he was ready to look for love again. What would have been far more realistic and upbeat would have been if Isherwood had left it there. It would have been lovely to think that's what George does next. But - whether for literary merit - or for the tradition that - in books of this period - all gay guys MUST die at the end - he doesn't. And it was the ending that spoiled it for me and made me want to throw the book across the room, and made it lose a five star ranking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well..., 13 Dec 2012
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Poor George... intellectually privileged, a homosexual in times of changes. The book isn't exactly gripping, but nevertheless, quite interesting. Sharp words and dialogues with depth, show an unhappy man looking to relive the best parts of his live.
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A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (Audio CD - 22 Dec 2009)
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